Dealing with Students

Dealing with Students

More and more often, students are coming to me with their problems. When I started here, visits from students mostly revolved around class or another aspect of my field—occasionally they were seeking advice about a colleague in the same department—but now it is a mix of everything. They are coming to me with actual problems. Problems with expenses. Roommates. Relationships. If I had the answers to all that, I would not have decided to remain in academia, would I? I would have a successful talk show in America and a best-selling book; I would be making much more than I do now. Why do students think I, computer geek and humble professor Thomas, have all the answers? I certainly do not act as if I want to be their friend. I come in, I teach them, I give them an assignment, I leave. I come in, check over their lab progress, correct them, I leave. I grade their papers and return them. Should that not give me a free pass from also listening to Marie’s disastrous roommate Amiee? You may think so, and yet, there was Marie in my office last week, telling me her Unix project would be delayed because the evil saboteur Amiee blew all the fuses in their apartment because of an over the top weekend party. As if we do not have Unix machines at the computer lab. I reminded the long-suffering Marie of this fact, which made her immediately blush and slink out of my office. I am not sure why I am supposed to care about this.

Although I am required to have an open door policy by the University, I have stopped announcing it to the students. They find out anyway, probably through some other teacher. I have started asking questions as soon as they sit down across the desk from me to determine if it is of an academic nature. I try to be polite because I need students in my classes every semester or they will fire me for talking to empty seats. I think that even if I told them to only disturb me for emergencies, there would be some debate over what an emergency actually entails.

I love when they come with relevant questions or to ask advice about a course topic. Such bright minds, sometimes so caught up in the wrong part of a programming or hardware problem. We can talk out any hardware or software problem together. I see the light in their eyes when they finally understand the answer. I cannot always see that light while lecturing because the majority of what I see is the backs of laptops and the tops of heads reverently transcribing my every word. I rarely see them look me in the eye in the classroom. Maybe they see my excitement when they are able to find the answers and mistake that for a general interest in their lives. I may never know the reason.

And so they knock. One is knocking right now, in fact. I must go.